If you have ever seen the film Water For Elephants starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon you may have been appalled by the story line of an elephant named Rosie (played by Tai, the real-life elephant) who was subjected to beatings by her trainer when she fails to respond to his commands.
This is when Robert Pattinson, as the circus veterinarian Jacob, discovers that the elephant had initially been trained in the Polish language not English. No wonder Rosie was so obstinate, he reasons. She didn’t understand the language.
So when Jacob reverts Rosie’s training sessions to those spoken in Polish Rosie responds and “performs beautifully”. Reese Witherspoon, as Marlena, was back in the spotlight with Rosie the elephant; for a while anyway. Kindness had prevailed. At least in the fictional world of the movie.
But kindness is not what keeps big budget Hollywood films on time and in good order. Not when it comes to the use of wild animals. Not when a 9200 lb elephant is involved. After all there are millions of dollars to be made and paid to the film’s creators and the film’s stars.
Now, many of the actors and those involved with the making of this film may have been as uninformed as their ticket buying public. They may have been completely unaware of the methods used to train these performing elephants, especially if they are constantly being reassured by the elephant’s trainers that the manner in which they tend to the elephants are humane.
But think about it, and wouldn’t those creative humans have asked themselves this question? Why should an elephant (having faced a traumatic capture in the wild, torn from their elephant family) be forced to perform for the purpose of human entertainment? They are certainly not liking it.
Why can’t elephants just be elephants?
For once let us put the welfare of elephants first and foremost in our minds. And if it takes a revelation such as this, which is far too late in coming, to educate the public and to turn things around then the greater good (and the only solution as far as our elephants are concerned) has prevailed.
But what about the elephant? What is the elephant having to endure for the humans to have their great moments and even greater paychecks?
What about the suffering of our elephants?
When the film Water For Elephants was released in 2011 The Daily Mail reported on a “secret video” (“believed to have been taken in 2005 at the Have Trunk Will Travel Complex”) made public by Animal Defenders International (ADI).
This video exposed the horror behind the scenes that the public was not privy to, of Have Trunk Will Travel’s alleged cruel training methods using bullhooks and even, in some instances, electric shock devices. The trainers of Tai and a number of other elephants used for the purposes of entertainment are associated with this company called Have Trunk Will Travel.
While Have Trunk Will Travel representatives (co-founder Gary Johnson and Joanne Smith, an animal trainer, appear in the elephant video subjecting the elephants to the alleged abuse) have denied any cruelty with their methods of training their performing elephants, prominent animal rights groups would claim otherwise. Their (HTWT’s) response was a song and dance about how any unauthorized film clips were “taken out of context” and misinterpreted. Really?
Why don’t we ask the elephants? Why don’t we ask the elephants we see in the hidden video (that ADI made public) how they feel being forced to heave all 8000 lbs of themselves up into a headstand as they are receiving electric shocks from a device placed against their sensitive bellies?
Why is an elephant even being asked to do a headstand? Why is this inhumanity toward our elephants even allowed to exist, let alone continue?
Because the public is willing to pay for this form of entertainment and that generates the demand which generates the money which generates the abuse to keep these wild animals in line. If only humans would realize that it’s what they don’t see on that silver screen that can be the biggest travesty of all.
For more information see The Daily Mail photos and video
See Vimeo for full Animal Defenders International ( ADI ) Video exposing cruel treatment of our elephants
See YouTube Video “ No Happy Ending For Tai & Rosie “ for what happened after the Hollywood Film “ Water For Elephants “
Photo credits: Featured Water For Elephants, Reese Water For Elephants, Tai the Elephant painted , Robert Water For Elephants
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